The U.S. Senate’s Judiciary Committee announced last week it would begin considering the Supreme Court nomination of Neil Gorsuch on March 22.
That means senators have a little less than a month to do right by Merrick Garland, the traditions of the Senate and the U.S. Constitution. In short, senators owe Judge Garland a hearing and a vote before taking up Gorsuch’s nomination.
Let us explain.
Garland, a federal appeals court judge based in Washington, D.C., was nominated to fill the seat on the Supreme Court left vacant when Antonin Scalia died in February 2016. That’s how the Constitution outlines the process — when a vacancy on the high court arrives, a president nominates a replacement and the Senate takes a vote on the nominee. If a majority say yes, the nominee takes a seat on the Supreme Court. If a majority says no, then the president is expected to submit another nominee.
That’s not what happened last year.
Senate Republicans, who are in the majority and thus dictate that body’s agenda, decided they didn’t want President Barack Obama to decide who would replace Justice Scalia. So, no Judiciary Committee hearings on the worthiness of Garland. No testimony from the nominee that would display to senators and the public if the judge possessed the intelligence, demeanor and knowledge required of a Supreme Court justice. No vote on whether he should or should not sit on the court.
Nope, Republican senators decided to go on strike, to play for time on the chance that a Republican would replace Obama as president.
They got their wish in President Trump, who has nominated Gorsuch, a judge who appears quite capable of the job.
However, the nomination of Garland remains a bit of unresolved business for the Senate, a tradition-laden institution that prizes the following of rules and procedures. If you don’t believe it, just listen to your typical senator talk about what an asset to democracy his workplace is.
Senators are not required to vote for a president’s nominee. They insult their legislative body and the Constitution by refusing to vote on a president’s nominee.